Posts Tagged ‘Scholarly Activity’

In my recent (highly scientific) look at ASA submission types, I noted that some of the ASA submissions are papers with promise that could be revised for future submission to a journal.  In that post I stated, “Of these, about half will likely never be submitted because they were written by people, like me, for whom conference presentations count as ‘scholarly activity.'”  This statement, in the second half of my second year, is similar to a concern I raised nearly two years ago when discussing the publication gauntlet:

I wonder how my choice of institution will affect my desire to run the publication gauntlet.  Coming from a “publish or perish” department, I have a strong desire to get my work published in order to contribute to the body of sociological knowledge.  I also want to publish in well-regarded journals in order to increase the chance that others will actually be aware of my contributions.  At the liberal arts school where I will be employed, however, expectations for publication are much lower than for junior faculty in my current program and the fact that a paper went through peer review is more important than the name on the front of the journal.

In addition to lower expectations, I noted, is the fact that liberal arts professors have less time for research and fewer collaborators (especially important is the absence of graduate student collaborators who can do the bulk of the data analysis).  This means that there are fewer concurrent projects.  I suspected at the time that fewer concurrent projects decreased the likelihood of submitting publications to highly regarded journals because the need for peer-reviewed publications would outweigh the need for a high-status placement.  It appears that, at least regarding my own institution, I overestimated the importance of even low-ranking peer-reviewed publications.

As I noted above, scholarly activity is measured a number of ways at my non-elite private school.  Obviously, peer-reviewed publications count, but conference presentations also count, as does working on projects with students.  The balance between these forms of research means that working with a lot of students, leading to poster presentations at regional conferences, can almost entirely make up for a relative lack of peer-reviewed publications.  Certainly, higher-ranking liberal arts schools have higher standards but other forms of scholarly activity count there as well.  In contrast, a research collaboration at an R1 institution is likely to be viewed as a failure (or not viewed at all) by a tenure committee if it does not result in a publication.

A story from a colleague illustrates this difference.  When I mentioned revising a paper based on reviewers’ comments one day, she noted that she once received an R&R at the same journal but never got around to the actual process of revising and resubmitting.  Keep in mind that she was a tenure-track assistant professor when she made this decision.  She has since been awarded tenure.  It is hard for me to imagine a situation in which a tenure-track assistant professor at an R1 would casually ignore an R&R in this way.  Surely, not all R&Rs result in eventual publications, but to not even try struck me as ridiculous.

Given the reality of my situation, the path to tenure  seems relatively clear and there are likely countless others who would take my position in an instant.  There are drawbacks, however.  Among them is the fact that while my colleagues are engaged in scholarly activity, they are not used to submitting papers to highly-regarded journals and, thus, can offer little help in this process.  Research is also not a typical hallway conversation given the primacy of teaching in our lives.  When coming out of graduate school I had a strong desire to do important research but I wondered if the desire for high-profile publications would fade.  What I’ve found is that the desire hasn’t faded but the expectations of my institution create a situation in which I appear to be swimming against the current, wondering how long I can last before I am swept downstream.

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